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Bio Energy

What is it?

  • Bioenergy is any renewable energy or fuel derived from recent biological sources.

Biomass and biofuels

  • The term bioenergy encompasses biomass and biofuels.
  • Bioenergy is used interchangeably with biomass, however biofuels refers to biomass converted to a product with similar characteristics as its non-renewable counterpart. For example, the conversion of cellulosic material into ethanol for highway vehicle operation, displacing some gas.
  • Biomass is a very broad term which is used to describe material of recent biological origin that can be used either as a source of energy or for its chemical components.

Biomass types

Biomass can be converted to energy in multiple ways including:

  • Anaerobic digestion to produce biogas
  • Fermentation of starches and enzymatic degradation of cellulosic materials into ethanol
  • Chemical alteration of oil (crop, algae, used cooking oil) to biodiesel
  • Pyrolysis to produce bio-oil and bio-char
  • Combustion to produce heat for electricity generation

Biomass Sources

  • Biomass
    • Fiber
      • Wood chips
      • Grass
      • Organic waste
      • Agricultural residues
      • Industry residue
    • Oil (micro algae, fixed film biology)
    • Ethanol (micro algae, fixed film biology)
  • Biomass generation
    • Willow
    • Oilseed crops
    • Hog
    • Black liquor
    • Wood chips
    • Biosolids- wastewater
    • Acetate (carbon dioxide conversion)
  • Biofuels
    • Ethanol
    • Biodiesel
    • Biogas
    • Hydrogen
  • Waste
    • Municipal solid waste
    • Wastewater
    • Industrial waste
    • Agricultural waste
    • Agricultural residuals
    • Industry residuals

Applications

  • As discussed previously, biomass can be utilized in a variety of ways. As Southern Alberta is largely agriculturally based, there exists opportunity to make use of the resources. There are crop lands producing oil seeds such as canola, starchy cereal crops such as barley, and also large feedlots producing organic waste. There are also food production facilities in the area producing organic waste.

Size considerations

  • Depending on the technology used, size can vary from personal production, to large industrial. For example there are biodiesel and ethanol production units available to produce fuel for personal use. However, in general, producing energy from biomass is more economically and technically feasible on a larger scale.

Is it right for you?

  • Producing energy from biomass requires easy access to large amounts of feedstock and considerable expertise. Many areas do not have reasonable access to the necessary feedstocks and shipping from great distances can be cost prohibitive.
  • Expertise in both safety and chemical processes is necessary for all types of biomass conversion. Safety is an important consideration as many processes produce products that are flammable or explosive, and some feedstocks require care in handling.

Positives of Bioenergy

  • Producing energy for biomass requires easy access to large amounts of feedstock and considerable expertise. Many areas do not have reasonable access to the necessary feedstocks and shipping from great distances can be cost prohibitive.
  • Expertise in both safety and chemical processes is necessary for all types of biomass conversion. Safety is an important consideration as many processes produce products that are flammable or explosive, and some feedstocks require care in handling.

Issues with Bioenergy

  • Products can be hazardous
  • Production can be malodorous
  • Large volumes of feedstocks often required
  • Products intended to replace fossil fuels do not have identical characteristics, e.g. ethanol is hygroscopic and can cause engine damage in high concentrations
  • Potential for the release of pathogens
  • Large scale projects can be expensive
  • Some feedstocks require arable land for production, possibly displacing area for food production.